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Are you currently in a situation where you are facing criminal charges for Murder? Houston Criminal Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson represents clients charged with Homicide crimes throughout all of Texas. The Charles Johnson Law Firm can provide legal counsel at virtually any stage of your case, even if formal charges have not yet been filed against you. Currently, Texas has six types of Criminal Homicide charges:
Homicide is the act of killing another person, either intentionally or unintentionally. It is perhaps the most serious crime you could be accused of, and the potential penalties you could face if convicted are equally serious. Your lawyer must be well-versed in Texas and Federal Homicide laws to successfully represent you. If you or someone you love has been charged with any type of Criminal Homicide, you must take these charges very seriously and seek the legal advice of an experienced and knowledgeable Houston Criminal Defense Attorney right away. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will examine all the details of your case and will challenge the evidence against you. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson has helped his clients either prove their innocence, or obtain a reduction in the charges against them. Whether you or guilty or not, you deserve to have an experienced attorney on your side who will work aggressively, to protect you and your rights. Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day directly at (713) 222-7577. He is always available to discuss your case.
Texas Penal Code Chapter 19: Four Types Of Criminal Homicide
TPC section 19.01 states that there are four types of Criminal Homicide. They are Murder, Capital Murder, Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide.
Under TPC section 19.02 there are three basic ways to commit murder:
- intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;
- intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or
- commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission
or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.
Murder is usually a felony of the first degree, the possible punishment for which is imprisonment in the institutional division for life or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 5 years and/or by a fine not to exceed $10,000. The only exception to this that the crime is a felony of the second degree if the requirements of TPC sec. 19.02 (d) are satisfied:
At the punishment stage of a trial, the defendant may raise the issue as to
whether he caused the death under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising
from an adequate cause. If the defendant proves the issue in the affirmative by a
preponderance of the evidence, the offense is a felony of the second degree.
During the punishment phase of the trial, a defendant may argue that he caused the death while under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause. “Sudden passion” is “passion directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another acting with the person killed which passion arises at the time of the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation.”
“Adequate cause” is a “cause that would commonly produce a degree of anger, rage, resentment, or terror in a person of ordinary temper, sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool reflection.” Sudden passion is a mitigating circumstance that, if found by the jury to have been proven by a preponderance of the evidence, reduces the offense from a first degree felony to a second degree felony.
Thus, before defendants are allowed to have the judge or jury consider sudden passion, defendants must prove:
- that there was a adequate (legally recognized) provocation for the emotion or passion;
- an emotion or passion such as terror, anger, rage, fear or resentment existed;
- that the homicide occurred while the passion or emotion still existed;
- that the homicide occurred before there was a reasonable opportunity for the passion or emotion to cool (dissipate); and,
- that there was a causal connection between the provocation, the passion, and the homicide.
A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000. This is where the old offense of “voluntary manslaughter” ended up after amendments to the TPC effective in 1994. Thus, there is currently no offense of voluntary manslaughter in Texas.
A capital murder is a capital felony. The Texas Penal Code specifically defines Capital Murder (and, thus, the possibility of the death penalty as a punishment) as murder which involves one or more of the elements listed below:
- the person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
- the person intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or
retaliation, or terroristic threat,
- the person commits the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration or employs another to commit the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration;
- the person commits the murder while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution;
- the person, while incarcerated in a penal institution, murders another:
- who is employed in the operation of the penal institution; or
- with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination or in the profits of a combination;
- the person:
- while incarcerated for an offense under this section or Sec.19.02, murders another; or
- while serving a sentence of life imprisonment or a term of 99 years for an offense under Sec. 20.04, 22.021, or 29.03, murders another;
- the person murders more than one person:
- during the same criminal transaction; or
- during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct;
- the person murders an individual under six years of age; or
- the person murders another person in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of the other person as a judge or justice of the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, a court of appeals, a district court, a criminal district court, a constitutional county court, a statutory county court, a justice court, or a municipal court.
A capital felony is punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole. If the prosecution is not seeking the death penalty, life without parole is the mandatory sentence. Prior to 2005, capital felony life imprisonment was life with the possibility of parole after 40 years.
Under current state law, the crimes of Capital Murder and Capital Sabotage (see below) or a second conviction for the aggravated sexual assault of someone under 14 is eligible for the death penalty.
Note: The Texas Penal Code allows for the death penalty to be assessed for “aggravated sexual assault of child committed by someone previously convicted of aggravated sexual assault of child”. The statute remains part of the Penal Code; however, the Supreme Court of the United State’s decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana which outlawed the death penalty for any crime not involving murder nullifies its effect.
The Texas Penal Code also allows a person can be convicted of any felony, including capital murder, “as a party” to the offense. “As a party” means that the person did not personally commit the elements of the crime, but is otherwise responsible for the conduct of the actual perpetrator as defined by law; which includes:
- soliciting for the act,
- encouraging its commission,
- aiding the commission of the offense,
- participating in a conspiracy to commit any felony where one of the conspirators commits the crime of capital murder
The felony involved does not have to be capital murder; if a person is proven to be a party to a felony offense and a murder is committed, the person can be charged with and convicted of capital murder, and thus eligible for the death penalty.
As in any other state, people who are under 18 at the time of commission of the capital crime or mentally retarded are precluded from being executed by the Constitution of the United States.
Manslaughter (TPC sec. 19.04) is recklessly causing the death of an individual. Manslaughter is a felony of the second degree, which is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Texas does not officially use the term “involuntary manslaughter” or “voluntary manslaughter” which can sometimes be a little bit confusing. Many states do make the distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Instead, Texas combines involuntary and voluntary manslaughter together and it is known as just “manslaughter.”
To convict a defendant of manslaughter, prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant recklessly caused the death of another individual. There is no requirement of premeditation to this crime and no requirement for there to be intent or knowledge on the part of the defendant. The only requirement is that the defendant’s conduct was reckless.
Although manslaughter is defined broadly in Texas, there are specific types of manslaughter that are treated separately. For example, intoxication manslaughter is one, and vehicular manslaughter is another. Intoxication manslaughter deals with the defendant recklessly causing the death of another while intoxicated. Cases involving driving while intoxicated would probably be prosecuted under TPC sec. 49.08, Intoxication Manslaughter (see below), rather than under this section. Vehicular manslaughter deals with the defendant recklessly causing the death of another while driving a vehicle or vessel.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
Criminally negligent homicide (TPC sec. 19.05) is causing the death of an individual by criminal negligence. It is a state jail felony under which in general, a person can be confined in a state jail for not more than two years nor less than 180 days. In addition, a fine of not more than $10,000 may be assessed.
Criminally Negligent Homicide differs from Manslaughter only in terms of the culpability or mens rea. Criminally negligent homicide involves criminal negligence. Manslaughter involves recklessness. Thus, Manslaughter involves conscious risk creation (the actor is aware of the risk surrounding his conduct or the results thereof, but consciously disregards that awareness). Criminally negligent homicide involves inattentive risk creation. The actor ought to have been aware of the riskiness of his or her conduct but failed to perceive the risk.
Recklessness and criminal negligence are more serious forms of culpability than the negligence that can result in civil liability. Unlike civil or ordinary negligence, recklessness requires some subjective awareness of the risk. Ordinary negligence is a totally objective standard. Criminal negligence requires a “gross” deviation from the standard of care a reasonable or ordinary person would have exercised under the same circumstances. Criminal negligence is roughly equivalent to “gross negligence” which is a more serious form of culpability than ordinary negligence. Ordinary negligence can be made out by showing any deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise.
Texas Penal Code Section 49.08 Intoxication Manslaughter
The final type of criminal homicide found in Texas Code is found in TPC ch. 49, “Intoxication and Alcoholic Beverage Offenses.” A person is guilty of intoxication manslaughter if the person operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, watercraft or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride and “ is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.”
“Intoxicated is defined as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more or
“not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body . . .”
This offense is a felony of the second degree. A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000
Note that this is a strict liability offense. Guilt attaches even if the death is caused by accident or mistake. Many observers are critical of strict liability offenses because they arguably punish conduct which is not blameworthy. Supporters of strict liability offenses counter that such offenses are usually fine-only offenses. This is clearly not the case for sec. 49.08 for which a person could be imprisoned for up to 20 years.
Section 49.08 does not apply to injury or death of an unborn child if the offense against the unborn child is committed by the mother of the unborn child. Thus, if a pregnant woman is driving while intoxicated and has an accident which kills her fetus, it is not a crime.
Texas Government Code – Section 557.012 Capital Sabotage
- A person commits an offense if the person commits an offense under Section 557.011(a) and the sabotage or attempted sabotage causes the death of an individual.
- An offense under this section is punishable by:
- death; or
- confinement in the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for:
- life; or
- a term of not less than two years.
- If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under other law, the actor may be prosecuted under both sections.
Possible Defenses for Murder Charges
Defenses to first degree murder charges fall into two major categories: claims that the defendant did not commit the killing in question, and admission that the defendant committed the killing, but did not commit first degree murder.
Defendants admitting to having killed the victim can assert defenses that they were justified in doing so (in self defense, for example), or that they were somehow incapacitated and thus not legally liable. These defenses require the defendant to put forth proof to support his or her defense.
First degree murder defendants also may simply argue that the prosecution has not proved all elements of a first degree murder charge typically that the defendant killed willfully, deliberately and with premeditation. Though the defendant may support such an argument with evidence, he or she is not required to do so, as proof of all elements of the crime falls on the shoulders of the prosecution.
As with statutes defining crimes, the defenses recognized for a specific crime can vary by state. Furthermore, which defenses a criminal defendant may have depends on the particular facts of the case in question. For guidance, defendants should consult an attorney well versed in his or her state’s criminal laws.
In first degree murder cases, as well as other homicide crimes, defendants often argue mistaken identity i.e., that the prosecution has charged the wrong person with the killing. A defendant arguing mistaken identity often asserts an alibi if possible, which he or she tries to support with evidence of being somewhere else at the time of the killing. Other arguments in a mistaken identity defense include challenges to evidence placing the defendant at the scene of the crime. This can include challenges to witness identification as well as challenges to forensic evidence. A mistaken identity defense may also point to evidence implicating another possible suspect, but courts do not require defendants to do so.
Not all homicides are crimes, let alone first degree murders. The most common legal justification for a killing is self-defense or the defense of others.
To succeed, a defendant arguing self defense must show that the killing resulted from a reasonable use of force to resist a reasonable fear of death or bodily harm. The defendant cannot have instigated the threatening situation. The degree of force used in self-defense must be proportional to the threat perceived, and the threat perceived must be something that would place a reasonable person in fear of death or great bodily harm. Mere words or insults do not suffice.
The defendant’s reaction to the threat cannot take place after the threat of death or bodily harm has passed. Many states require that the defendant attempt to retreat or avoid danger if possible before resorting to the use of deadly force.
For example, if someone incapacitates a mugger with pepper spray, he or she may need to attempt to flee to safety instead of taking out a pistol and shooting the mugger. States differ in the degree to which they require an attempt to retreat if the threat they face occurs in the defender’s home.
Defense of Others
The reasonable and proportional defense of others also justifies some killings. The same requirements as self-defense typically apply: the use of force must be timely and proportional to the threat faced, and the perceived threat of death or bodily harm must be reasonable.
Exercise of Duty
Certain killings by law enforcement and other public officers qualify as justified homicides. If an officer kills someone in the exercise of duty and without an unlawful intent, recklessness or negligence, that killing generally does not constitute murder, let alone first degree murder.
Accident or Misfortune
Killings committed by accident in the course of lawful activities do not constitute murder. Some such killings may result in liability for manslaughter, but unless an accidental homicide takes place during the commission of a crime or as a result of other criminal intentions, they would not be covered by first degree or second degree murder statutes. In certain cases, such as parental discipline of children which results in even accidental death, the use of physical force beyond excepted norms can push the killing into murder and possibly, depending on state law, first degree murder.
Most states recognize an insanity defense to charges of first degree murder. Even states which allow the defense, however, treat it differently and often apply different tests. Most states define insanity, for purposes of determining criminal liability, as cognitively being unable to appreciate the quality of the act being committed, or unable to realize that the act is wrong. Some states also recognize a volitional aspect to “insanity” giving some defendants with disorders affecting impulse control access to the insanity defense.
Hire the Best Criminal Homicide Lawyers: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Murder charges are of course the most serious of all charges and the most seriously pursued by the State Attorney’s Office or Federal Prosecutors. A person charged with homicide (murder) in Texas risks significant jail time and most convictions will result in never being released from custody. In some cases, they face being sentenced to death. Texas has become infamous in the country for the number of murders.
However not all deaths are criminal, and there are several powerful homicide defenses provided under Texas Law. If you or someone you know is charged with some form of a Homicide charge, then you need the best possible attorney. You are entitled to the best legal defense possible. Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson can deliver that defense for you. Houston Criminal Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson is available to discuss your case whenever you need him. Contact him directly at (713) 222-7577. His Law Office is headquartered in Houston, with offices conveniently located in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
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A drug can be legal when prescribed by a doctor, yet it can be illegal when someone uses it without a valid prescription. If you are being investigated for a prescription drug crime, you cannot afford to be poorly represented. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has expertly defended prescription drug charges in Houston and throughout Texas.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm regularly assists clients with drug cases involving illegal prescription medications, such as:
- Forging of prescriptions
- Pharmacy fraud and prescription fraud
- Illegal possession of prescription medications
- Transportation of drugs
- Distribution of drugs
- Illegal buying prescription drugs online
- Drug delivery, manufacturing and trafficking
If you have been charged with one or more of these offenses, you could be facing jail time and other significant consequences. It is important to know what to do in the days following an arrest and how an experienced attorney can build a vigorous defense for your charges. In many cases he will be able to have your case dismissed entirely. Call Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case. Attorney Johnson answers the phone 24 hours per day and offers you a free initial consultation.
Hire the Best Houston Drug Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in Texas. There are many possible ways for someone to acquire prescription drugs for illegal use. Some people obtain the prescription drugs from a person who has a valid prescription. Others steal a doctor’s official prescription pad and forge the doctor’s signature for the medication, while some create a counterfeit prescription that resembles a doctor’s official prescription. There are some who do what is called “Doctor Shopping,” which entails going to many different doctors complaining about a medical condition to get prescriptions from each of them.
What is prescription drug abuse?
Prescription drug abuse is the use of a medication without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience or feelings elicited. According to several national surveys, prescription medications, such as those used to treat pain, attention deficit disorders, and anxiety, are being abused at a rate second only to marijuana among illicit drug users. The consequences of this abuse have been steadily worsening, reflected in increased treatment admissions, emergency room visits, and overdose deaths.
How many people abuse prescription drugs?
According to results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 2.4 million Americans used prescription drugs nonmedically for the first time within the past year, which averages to approximately 6,600 initiates per day. More than one-half were females and about a third were aged 12 to 17. Although prescription drug abuse affects many Americans, certain populations, such as youth, older adults, and women, may be at particular risk.
Who abuses prescription drugs?
Individuals of all ages abuse prescription drugs—data reported in the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicate that an estimated 36 million U.S. residents aged 12 and older abused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime. The survey also revealed that millions of teenagers and young adults abuse prescription drugs—2.7 million individuals aged 12 to 17 and 6.9 million individuals aged 18 to 25 abused prescription drugs at least once. Prescription drug abuse among high school students is a particular concern. According to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Survey, more than 10 percent of high school seniors in the United States abused narcotics (other than heroin) at least once in their lifetime. Nearly 17 percent abused amphetamines (a type of stimulant), 10 percent abused barbiturates, and 11 percent abused tranquilizers at least once.
Adolescents and young adults
Abuse of prescription drugs is highest among young adults aged 18 to 25, with 5.9 percent reporting nonmedical use in the past month (NSDUH, 2010). Among youth aged 12 to 17, 3.0 percent reported past-month nonmedical use of prescription medications.
According to the 2010 MTF, prescription and OTC drugs are among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders, after alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. While past-year nonmedical use of sedatives and tranquilizers decreased among 12th graders over the last 5 years, this is not the case for the nonmedical use of amphetamines or opioid pain relievers.
When asked how prescription opioids were obtained for nonmedical use, more than half of the 12th graders surveyed said they were given the drugs or bought them from a friend or relative. Interestingly, the number of students who purchased opioids over the Internet was negligible.
Youth who abuse prescription medications are also more likely to report use of other drugs. Multiple studies have revealed associations between prescription drug abuse and higher rates of cigarette smoking; heavy episodic drinking; and marijuana, cocaine, and other illicit drug use among adolescents, young adults, and college students in the United States.
Persons aged 65 years and older comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for more than one-third of total outpatient spending on prescription medications in the United States. Older patients are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions, and some experience cognitive decline, which could lead to improper use of medications. Alternatively, those on a fixed income may abuse another person’s remaining medication to save money.
The high rates of comorbid illnesses in older populations, age-related changes in drug metabolism, and the potential for drug interactions may make any of these practices more dangerous than in younger populations. Further, a large percentage of older adults also use OTC medicines and dietary supplements, which (in addition to alcohol) could compound any adverse health consequences resulting from prescription drug abuse.
What prescription drugs are commonly abused?
The prescription drugs that are commonly abused in the United States fall into several broad categories: opioids/narcotics/pain relievers, CNS (Central Nervous System) depressants, and stimulants. Individuals abuse these drugs because they are an easily accessible and inexpensive means of altering a user’s mental and physical state; the effects vary depending upon the drugs they abuse.
What are some of the commonly abused prescription drugs?
Although many medications can be abused, the following three classes are most commonly abused:
- Opioids—usually prescribed to treat pain;
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants—used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders; and
- Stimulants—most often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
What are opioids?
Opioids are medications that relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. Medications that fall within this class include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and related drugs. Hydrocodone products are the most commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including dental and injury-related pain. Morphine is often used before and after surgical procedures to alleviate severe pain. Codeine, on the other hand, is often prescribed for mild pain. In addition to their painrelieving properties, some of these drugs—codeine and diphenoxylate (Lomotil) for example—can be used to relieve coughs and severe diarrhea.
- Opioids/Narcotics/Pain Relievers
- Common Brand Names:
- Dilaudid (Dust, Juice, Smack, D, Footballs)
- Lorcet (Pharmies, Beans, Hydro, Painkillers, Happy Pills)
- Lortab (Tab, Hydro, Norco, Vikes, Viko)
- Oxycontin (Hillbilly Heroin, Oxycet, Oxycotton)
- Oxycodone which includes Percocet, Percodan & Tylox (Percs, Paulas, Roxicotten, Roxi’s, Blue Dynamite, 512s)
- Vicodin (Happy Pills, Vikes)
What are CNS depressants?
CNS depressants, sometimes referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers, are substances that can slow brain activity. This property makes them useful for treating anxiety and sleep disorders. Among the medications commonly prescribed for these purposes are the following:
Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax), are sometimes prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic attacks. The more sedating benzodiazepines, such as triazolam (Halcion) and estazolam (ProSom) are prescribed for short-term treatment of sleep disorders. Usually, benzodiazepines are not prescribed for longterm use because of the risk for developing tolerance, dependence, or addiction.
Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zalepon (Sonata), have a different chemical structure, but act on some of the same brain receptors as benzodiazepines. They are thought to have fewer side effects and less risk of dependence than benzodiazepines.
Barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral), phenobarbital (Luminal Sodium), and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), are used less frequently to reduce anxiety or to help with sleep problems because of their higher risk of overdose compared to benzodiazepines. However, they are still used in surgical procedures and for seizure disorders.
- CNS Depressants
Common Brand Names:
- Barbiturates which include Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal And Phenobarbital (Barbs, Blue Birds, Phennies, Tooties, Yellows, Reds, Yellow Jackets, Amytal, Downers, Nembutal, Phenobarbital, Red Birds, Red Devils, Seconal, Tuninal)
- Benzodiazepines which include Ativan, Halcion, Librium, Valium Or Xanax (Candy, Downers, Sleeping Pills, And Tranks)
- Flunitrazepam which includes Rohypnol (Known as a leading ‘date-rape’ drug, Forget-Me Pill, Mexican Valium, R2, Roche, Roofies, Rope)
- Ketamine which includes Ketalar (Kat, Valium K, Special K, Vitamin K)
What are stimulants?
As the name suggests, stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy, as well as elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. Stimulants historically were used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems, obesity, neurological disorders, and a variety of other ailments. But as their potential for abuse and addiction became apparent, the medical use of stimulants began to wane. Now, stimulants are prescribed to treat only a few health conditions, including ADHD, narcolepsy, and occasionally depression—in those who have not responded to other treatments.
Common Brand Names:
- Amphetamines which include Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Desoxyn, ProCentra, Vyvanse and Biphetamine (Bennies, Black Beauties, Crosses, Hearts, LA Turnaround, Speed, Truck Drivers, Uppers)
- Methylphenidate which includes Ritalin (Jif, Mph, R-Ball, Skippy, The Smart Drug, Vitamin R, Kiddy Cocaine, West Coast)
How are prescription drugs abused?
Prescription drugs are abused in a variety of ways. Many of the prescription drugs that are commonly abused are available as tablets. Typically abusers either consume the tablets orally or crush them into a powder, which they then snort. In some instances, abusers dissolve crushed tablets in water and then inject the solution.
How many people suffer adverse health consequences from abusing prescription drugs?
The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which monitors emergency department (ED) visits in selected areas across the Nation, reported that approximately 1 million ED visits in 2009 could be attributed to prescription drug abuse. Roughly 343,000 involved prescription opioid pain relievers, a rate more than double that of 5 years prior. ED visits also more than doubled for CNS stimulants, involved in nearly 22,000 visits in 2009, as well as CNS depressants (anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics), involved in 363,000 visits. Of the latter, benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax) comprised the vast majority. Rates for a popular prescribed nonbenzodiazepine sleep aid, zolpidem (Ambien), rose from roughly 13,000 in 2004 to 29,000 in 2009. More than half of ED visits for prescription drug abuse involved multiple drugs.
One in five teens nationwide were reported abusing a prescription pain medication and one in ten reported abuse of a prescription stimulant. (The Partnership for a Drug-Free America)
More teens abuse prescription drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana—more than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine combined. (The Partnership for a Drug-Free America)
Local school officials privately express concern about the selling and easy access of prescription drugs in their schools. School administrators, however, are reluctant to speak publicly about the problem.
Experts don’t know exactly why this type of drug abuse is increasing. The availability of drugs is probably one reason. Doctors are prescribing more drugs for more health problems than ever before. Online pharmacies make it easy to get prescription drugs without a prescription, even for youngsters.
How are they obtained?
Prescription drugs are obtained in various ways. In some cases, unscrupulous pharmacists or other medical professionals either steal the drugs or sell fraudulent prescriptions. In a process known as doctor shopping, abusers visit several doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions. Individuals also call pharmacies with fraudulent prescription refills, or they alter prescriptions. Prescription drugs occasionally are stolen from pharmacies. Young people typically obtain prescription drugs from peers, friends, or family members. Some individuals who have legitimate prescriptions sell or give away their drugs. Young people also acquire prescription drugs by stealing them from relatives and other individuals with legitimate prescriptions or from school medicine dispensaries.
Is abusing prescription drugs illegal?
Yes, it is illegal to use prescription drugs without a valid prescription or to distribute them. The penalties associated with the abuse or illegal distribution of prescription drugs vary depending upon the drug type.
What are the penalties for possessing illegal prescription drugs in Texas?
Prescription drugs are offered legally through a prescription, however, possession of prescription pills without a legal prescription can land you in jail in Texas.
Sec. 481.115. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 1. (a) Except as authorized by this chapter, a person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 1, unless the person obtained the substance directly from or under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner acting in the course of professional practice.
Sec. 481.117. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 3. (a) Except as authorized by this chapter, a person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 3, unless the person obtains the substance directly from or under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner acting in the course of professional practice.
Possession With Intent to Distribute
Some states have laws making it illegal to be in possession of your own prescription drugs under certain circumstances. Most states have laws that make it illegal to carry around pills that are not in their labeled prescription bottle.
In other words, if you are carrying around pills that your doctor prescribed to you, but have them loose in your pocket or purse, that is illegal. The presumption is that you are carrying them in that manner so that you can distribute them.
Purchasing Prescription Drugs over the Internet
Federal law prohibits buying controlled substances such as narcotic pain relievers (e.g., OxyContin®, Vicodin®), sedatives (e.g., Valium®, Xanax®, Ambien®), stimulants (e.g., phentermine, phendimetrazine, Adderall®, Ritalin®) and anabolic steroids (e.g., Winstrol®, Equipoise®) without a valid prescription from your doctor. This means there must be a real doctor-patient relationship, which by most state laws requires a physical examination. Prescriptions written by “cyber doctors” relying on online questionnaires are not legitimate under the law.
Buying controlled substances online without a valid prescription may be punishable by imprisonment under Federal law. Often drugs ordered from rogue websites come from foreign countries. It is a felony to import drugs into the United States and ship to a non-DEA registrant.
Buying drugs online may not be only illegal, but dangerous. The American Medical Association and state boards of medicine and pharmacy have all condemned the practice of cyber doctors issuing online prescriptions as unacceptable medical care. Drugs delivered by rogue websites may be the wrong drugs, adulterated or expired, the wrong dosage strength, or have no dosage directions or warnings.
Hire the Best Houston Prescription Drugs Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Some people believe that crimes that involve prescription drugs are treated less seriously than crimes that involve marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs. This is not true, however, and the penalties for prescription drug crimes in Houston can be just as severe as penalties for illegal drug crimes. Depending on the type and amount of drug, the consequences could be significant.
If you have been charged with an offense involving illegal prescription medications, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who can successfully represent you and protect your rights.
We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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For questions about Texas expungement laws, or to discuss your case confidentially with Houston Expungement Lawyer Charles Johnson, do not hesitate to contact us at the Charles Johnson Law Firm. We offer free expungement consultations via phone anytime day or night to see if you qualify to expunge your criminal record.
A criminal conviction can certainly change your life. Even after you’ve paid your debt to society, your criminal record may make it hard to get your life back. Fortunately, Texas provides a way to set the record straight: expungement.
Houston Record Expungement Defense: Hire the Most Effective Houston Criminal Lawyers
Expungement is a legal process through which a charge or conviction could very well be erased from a person’s criminal record. Below you will discover links to in-depth knowledge on expungement.
- Expungement Basics – Introductory advice on expungement and its legal consequences.
- Eligibility for Expungement – An arrest or conviction usually must meet certain standards in order to be eligible for expungement.
- The Expungement Process – A number of steps must be taken before an expungement is granted.
- Expungement isn’t Always an Option – Expungement isn’t available in all jurisdictions, and may not be an option for certain arrests or convictions.
Expungement (also called “expunction”) is a court-ordered process in which the legal record of a charge or a criminal conviction is “sealed,” or erased in the eyes of the law. When a conviction is expunged, the process may perhaps also be often called “setting aside a criminal conviction.” The availability of expungement, and the procedure for getting an arrest or conviction expunged, will vary according to the state or county in that the arrest or conviction transpired.
Legal Effect of an Expungement
An expungement ordinarily means that an arrest or conviction is “sealed,” or erased from a person’s criminal record for most purposes. After the expungement process is complete, a charge or a criminal conviction ordinarily doesn’t necessarily need to be disclosed by the individual who has been arrested or found guilty. For instance, when completing an application for a job or apartment, an applicant whose charge or conviction has been expunged doesn’t need to disclose that arrest or conviction.
In the majority of cases, no record of an expunged charge or conviction will appear in cases where a potential employer, educational institution, or other company conducts a public records inspection or background search of an individual’s criminal history.
An expunged arrest or conviction isn’t really necessarily completely erased, in the literal sense of the word. An expungement will ordinarily be an accessible part of a person’s criminal history, viewable by certain government agencies, such as police officers and the criminal courts. This limited accessibility is in some cases known as a criminal record being “under seal.” In many legal proceedings, that include during sentencing for any type of crimes committed after an expungement, or in immigration / deportation proceedings, an expunged conviction that is “under seal” may possibly still be considered as proof of a past conviction.
When expungement of an arrest or conviction is an option in a state or county, more often than not a person’s criminal record should meet certain standards in order to qualify for the process.
Whether or not an individual is eligible for expungement will commonly depend on a number of factors, including:
- The amount of time which has passed since the arrest or conviction
- The severity and nature of the event for that expungement is sought (i.e. a conviction for a sex criminal offense could possibly lead to a denial of expungement)
- Events within the applicant’s criminal record (such as arrests or convictions in virtually all jurisdictions, not only the offender’s state/county)
- The severity and nature of various other events within the applicant’s criminal record
Special eligibility rules might exist for expungement of arrests or convictions that transpired when the offender was a juvenile, and arrests or convictions for sex offenses. Please contact the Finest Criminal Lawyer in Houston TX to talk about your readily available options.
The Expungement Process
Where available to persons who have been arrested or found guilty, expungement does not happen automatically, and is never guaranteed. A person looking to have an arrest or criminal conviction expunged from their record has to in most cases fill out an application or request, and submit the paperwork to the appropriate criminal court for a judge’s review and ruling. In most jurisdictions, a fee must be paid in conjunction with the filing of the application.
The expungement process might be complex. By way of example, a few jurisdictions require an applicant to deliver (or “serve”) papers on district attorneys, while others require the applicant to put together the legal document (or “Order of Expungement”) which will probably be signed by the judge. In certain cases, a court hearing is required, after which a judge will decide whether to grant the expungement.
The Best Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm can certainly advise you regarding this challenging process.
Expungement is not Always an Option
It is very important to understand that expungement of an arrest and/or a criminal conviction is not really an option in virtually all states and counties (named “jurisdictions”). Depending on the jurisdiction in that the arrest or conviction transpired:
- Expungement may not be available at all
- Expungement may be an option for arrests, but not for convictions
- Expungement may be an option only for certain criminal convictions
- Expungement may be an option only for arrests and/or convictions that occurred while the offender was a juvenile
- Expungement may be available only after a person is acquitted (cleared) of an offense (i.e. charges are dismissed)
- Expungement may be possible only when a criminal conviction is reversed (i.e. after a successful appeal of the conviction).
Hire The Most Respected Houston Criminal Lawyers! The Charles Johnson Law Firm
In Texas, criminal record expunction or an action to seal your criminal record may help you move on with your life. There are many benefits which flow from misdemeanor or felony expunction or record sealing, including no longer needing to list a prior conviction on a job application or worrying about the possible consequences of an employer’s discovery of your criminal record. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will do everything possible to clear a client’s record. If you are interested, contact the Best Houston Expungement Attorney today.
Need Help Acquiring an Expungement? Hire the Best Houston Criminal Lawyers
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The Leading Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm aggressively defend clients charged with a sexual offense. The firm handles all sexual offense charges, whether in state or federal court, and whether the sex crime allegations are against children or adults.
Parties in contentious divorce or custody proceedings have been known to encourage children to say the other parent “touched” them a certain way or otherwise imply molestation. Child care workers, pastors, teachers, coaches, and others are frequently falsely accused. Parents have even been known to target individuals for extortion by coaching children. They may be coached by well-meaning social service and health care professionals, law enforcement officers, and prosecuting attorneys who want to make sure they obtain a conviction regardless of the truth.
Allegations of sex crimes are taken very seriously in Texas, and across the nation. With more stringent penalties being imposed, a false claim unchallenged or a single error in judgment can require you to be a lifelong member of the sex offenders’ registry and database. Before your reputation is devastated, invoke your right to an attorney and your right to remain silent. Contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm for a free phone consultation when you are under investigation for sex crimes or if charges have been brought against you for anything from possession and distribution of child pornography to sexual assault and rape.
How is Child Pornography Defined?
Federal and state laws make it a crime to produce, possess, distribute, or sell pornographic materials that exploit or portray a minor. Increasingly, child pornography laws are being utilized to punish use of computer technology and the Internet to obtain, share, and distribute pornographic material involving children, including images and films.
Under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), child pornography is defined as any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where
- the production of the visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
- the visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer-generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
- the visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
- Federal law (18 U.S.C. §1466A) also criminalizes knowingly producing, distributing, receiving, or possessing with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting, that
- depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
- depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Sexually explicit conduct is defined under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256) as actual or simulated sexual intercourse (including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex), bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.
Who Is a Minor?
For purposes of enforcing the federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), “minor” is defined as a person under the age of 18.
Is Child Pornography a Crime?
Yes, it is a federal crime to knowingly possess, manufacture, distribute, or access with intent to view child pornography (18 U.S.C. §2252). In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography. As a result, a person who violates these laws may face federal and/or state charges.
Where Is Child Pornography Predominantly Found?
Child pornography exists in multiple formats including print media, videotape, film, CD-ROM, or DVD. It is transmitted on various platforms within the Internet including newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat (chatrooms), Instant Message, File Transfer Protocol, e-mail, websites, and peer-to-peer technology.
What Motivates People Who Possess Child Pornography?
Limited research about the motivations of people who possess child pornography suggests that child pornography possessors are a diverse group, including people who are
- sexually interested in prepubescent children or young adolescents, who use child pornography for sexual fantasy and gratification
- sexually “indiscriminate,” meaning they are constantly looking for new and different sexual stimuli
- sexually curious, downloading a few images to satisfy that curiosity
- interested in profiting financially by selling images or setting up web sites requiring payment for access
Who Possesses Child Pornography?
It is difficult to describe a “typical” child pornography possessor because there is not just one type of person who commits this crime.
In a study of 1,713 people arrested for the possession of child pornography in a 1-year period, the possessors ran the gamut in terms of income, education level, marital status, and age. Virtually all of those who were arrested were men, 91% were white, and most were unmarried at the time of their crime, either because they had never married (41%) or because they were separated, divorced, or widowed (21%).3
Forty percent (40%) of those arrested were “dual offenders,” who sexually victimized children and possessed child pornography, with both crimes discovered in the same investigation. An additional 15% were dual offenders who attempted to sexually victimize children by soliciting undercover investigators who posed online as minors.4
Who Produces Child Pornography?
Based on information provided by law enforcement to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Victim Identification Program, more than half of the child victims were abused by someone who had legitimate access to them such as parents, other relatives, neighborhood/family friends, babysitters, and coaches.
What is the Nature of These Images?
The content in these illegal images varies from exposure of genitalia to graphic sexual abuse, such as penetration by objects, anal penetration, and bestiality.
Of the child pornography victims identified by law enforcement, 42% appear to be pubescent, 52% appear to be prepubescent, and 6% appear to be infants or toddlers.
Possible Punishment for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor/Child Pornography
If the photographs include children who are fourteen (14) years of age or younger, it is a Dangerous Crimes Against Children (DCAC) and carries a very severe penalty. A first offense carries the following punishment for each and every conviction: ten (10) years minimum in prison; seventeen (17) years presumptive in prison; twenty-four (24) years maximum incarceration.
If convicted of one previous predicate felony (which includes a prior DCAC, among other serious felonies), the range of punishment increases to a minimum twenty-one (21) years, presumptive twenty-eight years (28), and maximum thirty-five (35) years. Because this is a DCAC, 100% of the prison time must be served before being eligible for release. In addition, if the person is convicted of two (2) counts, they must be run consecutive to each other (i.e., the minimum is now twenty (20) years in prison, and all other ranges double). This is why these charges are sometimes referred to as “life enders”.
The maximum penalty on a Sexual Exploitation charge actually carries more time than the maximum penalty on a Second Degree Murder charge. A conviction will require you to register as a Sex Offender for the rest of your life, and you are not allowed to have any contact with anyone under the age of eighteen (18) (this includes your own children), without going through numerous testing procedures and only with the consent of your Probation Officer.
If the child was ages fifteen – seventeen (15-17), it is not sentenced pursuant to the DCAC statute. A first offense class two (2) felony, carries punishment of probation with zero (0) days in jail up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of three (3) years to twelve and one half (12.5) years of incarceration. If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction, then the “prison only” range is four and one half (4.5) years to twenty-three and one quarter (23.25) years in prison. If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is ten and one half (10.5) to thirty-five (35) years of incarceration.
Possible Defenses for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor/Child Pornography
The critical defenses to Child Porn charges involve showing that the person did not “knowingly” possess, receive, or do any of the listed actions with the images. One way of asserting this defense is by presenting evidence that the defendant was not the person who accessed the images. If it can be shown that there were multiple users who had access to the computer, and who did in fact use the computer often, then it is much more difficult for the State to prove the defendant actually accessed the images, rather than some other person. This defense is especially appropriate when the defendant lacks any other sexual crime convictions. In order to assert this defense, we need to present a variety of our own evidence to contradict whatever has been presented by the prosecution. Typically, the State would normally have executed a search warrant and confiscated the computer involved, then searched for the “IP address” and passwords that were used to trace the activates to a particular time, date, and user. Before they do any of this they will have “cloned” the hard drive in order to avoid any accusations that they have somehow tampered with the computer by adding images.
Another typical defense is that the defendant inadvertently came across the images on his computer, and thus it was not a “knowing” exchange. It is an affirmative defense to Child Pornography charges if a person timely reports that they have received unsolicited images on their computer. Usually, reporting within three (3) days of discovering the child pornography is considered to be “timely reporting.”
The Top Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm handles a very high percentage of the “Sex Crimes” cases. They have one of the largest libraries with research materials devoted to challenging accusations involving sex crimes. Registering as Sex Offender has drastic consequences and leaves a black mark on your record; do not underestimate the potential severity of this charge.
Additionally, because the Charles Johnson Law Firm fights conviction from all angles, they will assert a wide range of defenses and challenges to constitutional violations that apply in all criminal cases. The possibilities are numerous and diverse. One of those that is frequently asserted is a “Miranda rights violation.” In Texas, the standard of whether any incriminating statement (i.e., a statement which tends to admit guilt) is admissible into evidence is based upon a “voluntariness” standard. If we can demonstrate that the police coerced you (i.e., intimidated or tricked you) into making a confession or inculpatory statement, or that they did not properly read you your Miranda Rights, then we can suppress those statements and any evidence gathered as a direct result of those statements.
In addition, the “denial of right to Counsel” is another common defense which is often raised. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any “forensic flaws” during the investigation of your case. Depending on what else you have been charged with, this could include exposing flawed procedures regarding blood, breath, and urine testing; fingerprints analysis; DNA testing; computer analysis/cloning hard drive procedures; forensic financial accounting reviews; etc. Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case.
Do Not Make Statements. Obviously, the best defense begins before a defendant is ever charged. Often, in a misguided attempt to help law enforcement, defendants make statements that are twisted and turned into prosecutorial evidence. It is important to remember not to allow yourself be interviewed government agencies without an attorney present.
Any interview will be sent to the police and the county attorney’s office and can be used against you. An obvious corollary is do not let yourself be interviewed again by the police without your attorney present.
Computerized Evidence. Internet child pornography is a growing offense across the nation. Often files can be downloaded to a computer without the user knowing the content of the download. In such cases the electronic file will often include tell tale electronic evidence about the file, where it came from and its date of download. Using this evidence or challenging law enforcement’s sloppy investigation and acquisition of potentially exculpatory information is the best way for a defense lawyer to prove actual innocence.
Examine Prosecution Expert’s Background. An important part of every case is the ability to counter the reports and testimony of computer professionals, caseworkers and “experts” who examine pornographic evidence. To effectively counter a prosecution expert, the defense attorney must be well educated on the expert’s education, work history, published works and testimony in prior cases.
Use a Polygraph. When it is advantageous to the defense against a sexual assault, defense attorneys should obtain a credible polygraph examination from a respected professionals.
Texas Sex Offender Registration
In addition to the prison terms and fines one can face when convicted of any of these offenses, you may be required to register as a sex offender. This means you will be tracked for the rest of your life.
Knowing where to turn when facing charges as dark as these can be difficult. You have likely already seen people turn their backs on you because of the charges and you haven’t even gone to trial. You need someone in your corner fighting for your good name.
You are innocent until proven guilty. The Best Houston Criminal Lawyers will see to it that you get the best possible results on your day in court.
Hire the Best Houston Child Pornography Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
The Top Houston Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm defend against sexual assault allegations throughout Texas, no matter how small or large the city. They have developed a unique understanding of the dynamics of these very serious cases. Their competent, aggressive and thorough representation has made them a leading criminal defense firm in dealing with sex and pornography related criminal charges.
Defending in these areas is a very specialized area of criminal defense. Unfortunately, the very accusations themselves are often treated as conclusive proof of criminal activity. If Attorney Charles Johnson is retained at an early stage in the investigation, he is sometimes able to avoid charges altogether. At a minimum he will be able to avoid the trauma and embarrassment of his client being arrested at home or at the workplace by contacting law enforcement and the court in order to make the necessary arrangements.
Depending on the facts of your case and the evidence against you, the Leading Houston Criminal Defense Lawyers will work to help you beat a false accusation or try to lessen the punishment. We understand your freedom is at stake and that a conviction of possession of child pornography may result in lifetime registration as a sex offender. To protect your rights and liberty, we conduct thorough investigations to prepare for trial or to minimize the consequences or sentence.
Call today for your free consultation.
Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Houston Criminal Lawyers: Coping With An Arrest For Child Porn?
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Hire the Most Dedicated Houston Criminal Lawyers!
Being arrested for a criminal offense in Houston, TX is a quite scary moment in your life. The federal government has the ability to take away your liberty for the rest of your life. A very complicated process begins to operate the moment you are arrested by law enforcement. It truly is daunting and overwelming.
Nevertheless, these are generalities only. The real answer is determined by the form of crime you had been arrested for, the circumstances surrounding it, the county you are in, etc. Only those who understand the criminal law process, and know how to make it work, can really tell you what you should expect in your particular case. This is definitely one area of the law you do not ever want to handle on your own.
A good criminal defense attorney will usually provide a complimentary consultation to anyone charged with a criminal offense. You ought to take advantage of that no charge consultation asap. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney is extremely important to successfully getting through the criminal process. Get a no cost initial consultation by calling the Best Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm right now, 24 / 7, 365 days a year.
Listed here are the steps you may expect to take place, and what each step within the process means to you:
Stop and Arrest
The entire process starts with a stop or an arrest by law enforcement. A stop isn’t as formal as an arrest. A police officer will stop you to ask questions. They cannot stop you unless they have a reasonable belief you violated the law. What is known as a valid “reasonable suspicion”? There are a million cases answering that question and a Attorneys In Houston is going to be able to give you a great many examples during your free consultation.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that an individual always has the right to remain silent, even if you are simply stopped and questioned. You do not have to respond to questions from law enforcement at any time. In reality, everyone ought to know their constitutional rights relating to criminal law.
If you are in a vehicle, the police officer could possibly ask to search it. The authorities cannot search your vehicle unless they have “probable cause”, or if you consent. Some might seek your consent mainly because they do not quite have “probable cause.” You do not have to give your consent to a search of your vehicle. Some might search your automobile later, nevertheless your lawyer can certainly then challenge the probable cause police officers asserted as being a reason to search the vehicle. Should you give your consent, law enforcement do not need any other reason to search your car, and your lawyer will have substantially less to challenge in court.
“Probable cause” is more serious than “reasonable suspicion”, however there are a million court cases explaining it too and the Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm will give an explanation of those during your consultation. You cannot challenge a police officer’s assertion of probable cause until later on, in the courtroom. Once again, let your attorney handle that question later.
Generally, a law enforcement officer will be able to charge you should they have probable cause to believe you committed a crime, or if there is a warrant out for your arrest. If a stop and search bring about an arrest, you ought to not resist it. If it is not really valid, you will want to do so, nevertheless you cannot legally challenge it until later. Resisting arrest is known as a crime alone . The right advice in the event you are arrested is to be calm, always be silent, and demand a lawyer before they ask you any type of questions.
After being arrested, the police officer will “book” you. This is the process where they take your fingerprints, get your mug shot, do a background check, and ask you questions. Remember, you have the right to remain silent and the right to demand an attorney. You do not need to respond to questions. They aren’t going to let you out of jail even should you respond to virtually all their questions. Just be calm, always be silent, and let your attorney deal with things later. That is certainly the very best you can do.
The charge originates from the prosecutor, in no way the police. The victim does not get to charge you, and contrary to popular belief, they don’t get to drop the charges either. The prosecutor will quite often take into account the wishes of the victim, however they do not have to. You are in the hands of the state subsequent to being arrested. They can’t hold you forever, however. You must be charged with a criminal offense within a certain limited amount of time or they have to release you.
This is where the Judge or Magistrate will formally read your charges and let you know your rights. You should have asserted your right to a lawyer before now. If not, do so now. If you are asked how to plea, and you do not have an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer, you should say “not guilty.”
The Magistrate will determine whether or not you ought to be released, and if so, how much your bail will be. Bail is the amount of money you, or someone else, should post with the court so they can be sure you will reappear. If you do not, your bond is going to be forfeited, and the county retains it.
If bail is set, another person must post it for you or hire a bail bondsman to do so. Should you hire a bail bondsman, and you run off, the bondsman loses the bail money to the court. If that occurs, they send another person after you – a bounty hunter. Furthermore, there is going to be a warrant out for your arrest. In some cases you might be released on your own “recognizance”, which just means there is absolutely no bail. Nevertheless you are currently in the system and definitely will be required to appear for additional proceedings.
Discovery is known as a pre-trial process where the prosecutor needs to give certain information and facts to your Houston Criminal Lawyers. Attorney Charles Johnson will be entitled to see all of the evidence against you well before trial. There are no secret, last minute witnesses allowed.
This is the most effective reason to remain silent, not give your consent to a search, and demand a criminal defense attorney in the event you are arrested. Your Houston Criminal Defense Lawyers can prepare any number of pre-trial motions. They normally ask the Court to exclude certain evidence from trial if it was obtained in an illegal or impermissible fashion. It is challenging to suppress evidence if you spoke voluntarily or gave consent to a search.
This is a fancy word for negotiations. If the two sides reach an agreement, you will ordinarily be required to plead guilty to one or more of the criminal charges to acquire the deal that has been reached. This involves going to court, answering some questions from the Judge, and telling the court on the record that you are guilty to the charge agreed upon by Attorney Johnson and the prosecutor.
If the prosecutor and your Houston Attorneys could not arrive at an agreement on a plea bargain, you will generally go to trial. Trial is where the government has to put on evidence that you committed a criminal offense, in most cases including producing witnesses live in court to testify. You do not have to testify. You do not need to put on any type of evidence whatsoever. The government needs to demonstrate its case, and it must prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are found guilty, or in the event you enter a plea of guilty based on a plea bargain, you will undoubtedly be sentenced by the Court. The Judge will decide on the suitable punishment. This can be anything from probation to active prison time. There are guidelines that apply and give the Judge a general range of punishment options.
The Experienced Houston Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm can certainly do a lot on your behalf at sentencing, such as ensuring that all the procedures are followed, arguing for lesser guidelines, and arguing circumstances which would allow the Judge to sentence you to less than that called for within the guidelines. Also, a lawyer is able to help you before sentencing by explaining to you what actions you might take to make the Judge more likely to be lenient on you. For instance, if you are charged with drunk driving, and take a class or go to rehab, the Judge might take that into consideration when sentencing you.
Aggressive Lawyers in Houston
I have attempted to provide you with a useful overview of the criminal process, with a few great tips on how best to deal with important things at every stage. But I should repeat my very first and most important advice here: call Attorney Charles Johnson the moment a criminal charge is made against you. It is no joke, and you could lose your protection under the law, your cash, and your freedom.
Remember, Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson will provide you with a free of charge consultation for any individual charged with a criminal offense. You should take advantage of that no charge time with a knowledgeable lawyer to better understand the exact nature of your situation, and what is likely to happen to you at trial or sentencing.
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The Most Dedicated Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is going to be accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to take your call. He will make himself accessible to meet with you for an initial totally free consultation to talk about your case at a time and date and location that’s convenient for you.
Consulting with the Best Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson is suggested for individuals charged with a crime, simply because persons accused of crimes will probably be able to better understand the charges that have been brought against them and what defense is available for those charges. It’s a constitutional right for anyone charged with a crime within the United States to have fair and competent legal counsel in a court of law or to have the capability to represent themselves in a court of law, based on the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
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Anyone that has been charged with a crime should consult the advice and also the representation of the Best Houston Attorney to help comprehend the nature of the charge, what defenses are available for the crime, if plea bargains are available, and what could occur if the defendant is convicted of the crime. They can also help to identify pretrial problems and bring about essential motions either prior to or throughout the trial that can help to have the charge dismissed or have the charges lessened. Consulting with your attorney can mean the difference between serving a 20 year jail term and having your case dismissed. Charles Johnson is skilled in defending those charged with a selection of various crimes and studies the ever changing laws.
State vs. Federal Crimes
There are differences in between becoming charged having a state criminal offense or a federal criminal offense. Any individual charged for a crime ought to inform their attorney as to which level crime they’ve been charged simply because the defense that the lawyer prepares will probably be different if the crime is a state level charge or a federal level charge.
If You are Charged with a Felony or Misdemeanor
Waiting to consult a criminal defense attorney until a person is charged with committing a crime can be detrimental to that person’s case. An individual suspected of committing a crime, whether or not they actually committed the crime, ought to consult with the Most Dedicated Houston Lawyer instantly. Immediacy is an important factor when creating a defense to a criminal charge and Attorney Johnson will start working on a defense as soon as feasible.
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Virtually all drug charge convictions bear severe consequences, but the state of Texas makes every effort to crack down on drug manufacture cases. From meth laboratories to marijuana grow houses, in the event you or a loved one faces criminal charges surrounding the cultivation of drugs; you need to speak to the Finest Houston Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm prior to taking any sort of legal action on your own.
The Top Houston Drug Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson will have many years of experience protecting the accused within the courts throughout Texas and is going to be willing to respond to your questions and reduce the damages facing you following your drug manufacture arrest.
When you initially step into their office, the Top Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm will talk about your case, talk about what happened, and how the criminal charges you face might be affected by a prior criminal record. Listening to your side of the story, they’ll help you explore any and all potential defenses.
Understanding your side of the story is important. They will tell you about the court in which your charges are being heard. In all instances, they will want to hear your side of the story before beginning to fully evaluate your choices.
Hire The Recommended Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm
Texas defense attorneys see many drug distribution cases due to the sheer volume of interstate highway traffic. Sadly, it’s all-too-easy to move drugs along the interstate highway system in all directions. In particular within the Houston area, our law enforcement officers have noticed patterns when searching for drug traffickers. It is common for vehicles to be stopped along northbound interstates and for big amounts of drugs to be found. When suspect automobiles are stopped heading southbound, big amounts of currency are occasionally found. Whether the criminal arrest will be sale, distribution, or drug trafficking depends upon the kind and also the amount of drugs in question. However the difference you face in penalties is substantial.
A first degree felony drug conviction usually results in a minimum five-year prison term, but in large-scale drug manufacturing or drug distribution cases, jail terms can jump to a minimum of 15 years.
If excessively big sums of U.S. currency are found inside your vehicle (or perhaps a vehicle you are riding in), you may face charges of money laundering. Amazingly, the penalties at the federal level for possessing big amounts of money are similarly severe to those for possessing big amounts of drugs.
You might also discover yourself dealing with conspiracy charges, something federal prosecutors might add on to drug crime cases.
The Recommended Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson will have handled numerous state and federal drug cases in Texas courts, from drug manufacturing cases involving meth laboratories and marijuana grow houses to international drug trafficking. No case is too big or complicated for their firm to handle.
Seizure of Assets
Law enforcement officers doing drug interdiction work have the legal right to seize assets that had been utilized in furtherance of a criminal offense or purchased using the proceeds of criminal activity. This indicates they not only confiscate drugs; they also seize money, cars, boats, various other personal property and even real estate. The police or law enforcement agency is able to then sell the assets and keep the proceeds or just keep the property altogether for their own purposes. This is especially typical with vehicles.
Asset forfeiture sometimes goes too far, with the police taking property that doesn’t belong to anybody charged with the criminal offense, property and assets that in fact belongs to totally innocent family members or third parties. The Most Dedicated Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm handles asset forfeiture cases, helping customers fight to recover seized assets .
Creating Your Drug Manufacture Defense
Most drug manufacturing criminal charges, whether they involve marijuana or methamphetamines, are heard in state court. Quite often, marijuana grow houses and meth houses are discovered following informants report activities to the authorities.
If you have been turned in by a third party, the Best Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm will attack the reliability of the source. Nevertheless, in every case the quality of the evidence is different. That is why we analyze possible actions on a case-by-case basis.
Contact the Recommended Houston Drug Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson for a free consultation. They’ll fight hard to protect your rights throughout the legal process.
Charles Johnson |
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Although men and women in the United States are entitled to privacy and freedom from government intrusion, there is a limit to that privacy. State or federal police officers are permitted, where justified, to search your premises, car, or some other property and assets in order to look for and seize unlawful items, stolen goods or evidence of a crime. What rules must law enforcement follow when engaging in searches and seizures? What can they do in upholding the laws, and what can’t they do?
What the authorities May Do:
- Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, law enforcement officials may engage in "reasonable" searches and seizures.
- To prove that a search is "reasonable," the authorities must generally show that it is more likely than not that a crime has transpired, and that if a search is conducted it is probable that they will find either stolen goods or evidence of the criminal offense. This is named probable cause.
- In a few situations, law enforcement need to first make this showing to a judge who issues a search warrant. In the majority of special circumstances, however, law enforcement may be able to conduct a search without the need of a warrant. In fact, virtually all searches are "warrantless."
- Police may search and seize items or evidence when there’s no "legitimate expectation of privacy." In other words, if you did not have a privacy interest in the items or evidence, the authorities can take them and, in effect, no "search" has happened.
Note: In deciding whether or not there was a "legitimate expectation of privacy," a court will consider two important things:
- Did you have an expectation of some degree of privacy?
- Was that expectation reasonable in our society’s view?
Example: You have a semi-automatic rifle that you had stolen from a pawn shop. You leave the firearm laying on the hood of your vehicle when you get home. You don’t have a "legitimate expectation of privacy" with regard to items you leave on the hood of your vehicle, and police officers may take the weapon. No search has happened.
- Police may use first-hand info, or tips from an informant to justify the need to search your property. If an informant’s information is used, the police must prove that the information is reliable under the circumstances.
- Once a warrant is obtained, police officers may enter onto the specified area of the property and search for the items listed on the warrant.
- Police could very well extend the search beyond the specified area of the property or include various other items in the search beyond those specified or listed within the warrant if it is necessary to:
- Ensure their safety or the safety of others;
- Prevent the destruction of evidence;
- Discover more about possible evidence or stolen items that are in plain view; or
- Hunt for evidence or stolen items that, based upon their initial search of the specified area, they believe may be in a different location on the property.
Example: The police have a warrant to search your basement for evidence of a drug manufacturing operation. On their way through your home to go down to the basement, they see a cache of firearms sitting on your kitchen table. Some may take the guns to guarantee their safety while searching your basement.
- Police may search your property without the need of a warrant if you consent to the search. Consent must be freely and voluntarily given, and you cannot be coerced or tricked into giving it.
- Police may search your person and the immediate surroundings without a warrant when they are placing you under police arrest.
- If an individual is arrested in a residence, law enforcement may make a "protective sweep" of the home in order to make a "cursory visual inspection" of places where an accomplice may be hiding. In order to do so, the authorities must have a reasonable belief that an accomplice may be around.
Example: Police officers arrest you in your living room on criminal charges of murder. Some may open the door of your coat closet to make certain that nobody else is hiding there, but may not open your medicine cabinet due to the fact that an accomplice couldn’t hide there.
- When you are being taken to jail, police may perform an "inventory search" of items you have with you without the need of a warrant. This search may include your vehicle if it is being held by law enforcement in order to make a list of all items inside.
- Police may search without the need of a warrant should they reasonably fear for their safety or for the public’s safety.
Example: If the authorities drive past your house on a regular patrol of the neighborhood and see you, in your open garage, with ten cases of dynamite and a blowtorch, they may search your garage without having a warrant.
- If it’s necessary to prevent the imminent destruction of evidence, the police may search without the need of a warrant.
Example: If the authorities see you trying to burn a stack of cash that you stole from a bank, they could perform a search without a warrant in order to avoid you from further destroying the cash.
- Perform a search, without the need of a warrant, when they are in "hot pursuit" of a suspect who enters a private dwelling or area following fleeing the scene of a criminal offense.
Example: If the authorities are chasing you from the scene of a murder, and you run into your apartment in an effort to get away from them, they may follow you into the apartment and search the area without the need of a warrant.
- Police may perform a pat-down of your outer clothing, in what is named a "stop and frisk" situation, as long as they reasonably believe that you may be concealing a weapon and they fear for their safety.
What the authorities May NOT Do:
- The police may not perform a warrantless search anywhere you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, unless one of the warrant exceptions applies.
- If evidence was obtained through an unreasonable or unlawful search, the police may not use it against you in a trial. This is designated the "exclusionary rule."
- The police may not use evidence resulting from an unlawful search to obtain some other evidence.
- The law enforcement may not submit an affidavit in support of obtaining a search warrant if they did not have a reasonable belief in the truth of the statements in the affidavit.
- Unless there is a reasonable suspicion that it contains evidence, unlawful items, or stolen goods, law enforcement may not search your motor vehicle. If your vehicle has been confiscated by police officers, however, they can search it.
- Unless they have a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in a criminal activity, the authorities may not "stop and frisk" you. Should they have a reasonable suspicion, they can pat down your outer clothing if they are concerned that you might be concealing a firearm.
Houston Search & Seisure Defense: Hire the Most Respected Houston Lawyer
Courts quite often need to determine case-by-case whether or not the circumstances in which the police searched without a warrant had been legal. Therefore, if the search has already occurred and you are not sure of its legality, speak to the Leading Houston Drug Crimes Attorney as soon as possible. And any time a search has not yet been conducted, make sure that you understand your rights in advance.
Charles Johnson |
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As an alternative to sentencing a defendant to a prison term, a judge could possibly choose to sentence a defendant to probation. Probation releases a defendant back into the community, but the defendant does not have the same degree of freedom as a regular citizen. Probation comes with conditions that restrict a probationer’s behavior, and if the probationer violates one of those conditions, the court may very well revoke or modify the probation.
Courts typically grant probation for first-time or low-risk offenders. Statutes determine when probation is practical, nevertheless it is up to the sentencing judge to figure out whether or not to essentially allow probation.
Houston Criminal Defense: Hire the Most Effective Houston Criminal Defense Attorney
Even though sentencing judges have this latitude, they must still remain within the statutory limits when allowing probation. By way of example, a judge can’t impose probation for a period longer than the maximum sentence prescribed by statute.
Probation has three primary goals:
- To rehabilitate the defendant
- To protect society from further criminal conduct by the defendant
- To protect the rights of the victims
Once a judge has granted probation, the matter moves into the jurisdiction of probation officers, who monitor the probationer’s compliance with the terms of the probation.
Conditions are an inherent part of probation. Judges set conditions in order to meet the goals for probation stated above. A probationer needs to comply with these conditions or else the court may possibly impose a jail sentence or add more restrictive conditions to their probation.
Courts in most cases have a good deal of discretion when setting probation conditions, nevertheless that doesn’t mean that judges can set whatever terms they want. Probation conditions must be reasonable. This means that the conditions can never be vindictive, vague, overbroad or arbitrary. In addition, the conditions must be related to the protection of the public. Also, in cases where a judge wishes to impose special conditions, those conditions must relate to the nature of the transgression that the probationer committed.
Judges set the conditions, nevertheless probation officers enforce them. Any time a probation officer finds probable cause to believe that the probationer has violated the terms of the probation, the judge will likely either change the terms of the probation or revoke the probation and impose a prison sentence.
Because the probationer’s freedom is at stake, however, the probationer has to receive some procedural due process before a court revokes their probation. While the verdict to revoke probation, just like the ruling to grant probation, is at the court’s discretion, the court has to go through a number of procedural requirements before revoking probation. The probationer dealing with revocation doesn’t have as many legal rights during revocation proceedings as they do through the original criminal trial, however.
In order to revoke probation, a court has to provide the probationer with notice of the proposed revocation and conduct a hearing on the matter. The probationer has a right to testify at the hearing, present supporting witnesses, and confront the witnesses against them. The probationer also has a right to a neutral hearing body, and needs to receive a written statement containing the reasons for revoking probation.
If there is sufficient evidence, a violation of even a single condition is able to bring about revocation of probation. The violated condition has to be valid, however. In cases where a condition is later found to be unreasonable then violation of that condition will not constitute grounds for revocation.
Houston Probation: Hire the Most Qualified Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are accused of violating the terms of your parole or probation or have questions regarding a potential probation offense, make sure you call the Most Respected Houston Criminal Defense Attorney the instant for a free of charge initial consultation.
Charles Johnson |
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